January started with a project that had been hanging around for years. Our house’s cavity wall insulation, which we’d inherited, consisted of small beads which should have been stuck together but weren’t. Periodically these would leak out, covering our garden – and our neighbour’s. The difficulty would be in removing what remained of the beads, which none of the local firms would tackle.
Eventually we found a firm on the south coast who periodically visited the NE once sufficient jobs had accumulated. We also contracted with a local double-glazing firm and a local scaffolder. Finally we had a timetable put together and agreed – erect scaffolding, pump out old insulation, fit double glazing throughout, repump with new insulation, dismantle scaffolding. And it all went smoothly(ish).
We also took the Carricks to a pantomime (Aladdin) at the Theatre Royal. Very professional – almost too much so. Arlo was the child chosen to go on stage for a short routine. He handled it with aplomb.
We saw the Transatlantic Sessions regulars at the Sage, and Colin appeared in the St Andrews production of The Grand Duke. Julie arrived to watch along with Ellen in her wheelchair, broken leg held aloft, in spite of the snowy night. We had a biker friend staying with us, who was most impressed with the performance.
We rounded the month off with a skiing trip to Morzine/Avoriaz. We liked the area very much, and will return if we decide we can face the French prices.
Pat’s birthday meal was at Vujon, possibly the area’s poshest Indian restaurant. We also joined a wine tasting, arranged by the Wine Society. One of those occasions when one’s glad of good public transport.
A visit to the Customs House to see the Pitmen Poets was followed by a couple of days skiing in Glenshee. Or rather, one day in Pat’s case. She elected to spend the second day looking for whisky rather than facing a rather fierce blizzard on the mountain!
Finally, we popped down to the indoor snow slope at Castleford to give Benjamin his birthday present – a snowboarding lesson.
At home we suffered a blocked drain. Clearing it involved digging up part of the front garden and path to install a new manhole. Pat cleared off to USA and left Colin to deal with it!
While Pat was enjoying a three-week stay with the Canns, the Micklethwaites came to stay with Colin for a night. Next time we must plan things better.
The Canns are involved with the organization of the Boston Marathon. Jean writes profiles for the programme, they offer hospitality to runners on the day and Jean helps out with the start. Pat was there to enjoy it all and had a thoroughly good time until the shocking news came through of the explosions at the finish.
Pat returned from the US to a forest of very tall tomato and chilli pepper plants all carefully staked by Colin who had been left in charge of watering and turning (into the light, so as to avoid lopsided growth). His work proved worthwhile when the greenhouse crops started delivering and we had enough chillies to start our own Indian restaurant. Need any dried chillies, anyone?
On the internet front we decided to upgrade to FTTC. What a difference that has made. It’s now even quicker to email each other between study and sitting room!
We started the month with our annual trip to France with several dozen other bikers, organised by Colin and a friend. This year we went to Dieppe. It’s a nice, pretty place. We found out after we got back that Mark and James were there the same weekend, having sailed across the Channel.
Friends Dave & Joan paid a long-promised visit, enjoying a night at The Davy Lamp Folk Club before moving on to stay in a cottage in Teesdale.
Kate received her PhD from Cambridge University, and started a year’s internship at Bristol University’s School of Veterinary Sciences.
Finally, we went to see Emmylou Harris at the Sage and The Woman in Black at the Theatre Royal. Both are recommended.
June saw Julie enter the Great North Swim on Windermere. We picked her and the kids up bright and early on the Sunday and drove over to Ambleside, just a short walk away from the event. Julie did us proud!
We also went to the Foghorn Requiem. This was a concert at Souter lighthouse involving its foghorn, those of a number of ships offshore and a band. Very effective!
Colin had wanted some professional photographic portraits of Pat, so we spent a day with Mike Lester in Leeds, popping in on the Carricks afterwards.
We went to a Chilli Fest at Seaton Hall, from which we naturally came away heavily laden, and Colin took part in the usual concerts given by St Andrews Operatic Society. We also spent four nights with the PEMC biking around the Scottish Borders. This was a nice little trip out, and the weather was kind.
The allotment produced bumper crops and we were kept busy cooking and preserving. The new greenhouse borders proved particularly fertile. We had masses of aubergines as well as the expected tomatoes… ratatouille went into the freezer along with tomato soup, tomato sauce, roasted tomatoes, etc., etc.
One of our local operatic groups is Dauntless Theatre, young performers some of whom are also in St Andrews. We went to their production of Ruddigore. Simply splendid. Those within reach of Harrogate can see their Gondoliers later this year.
We spent our usual weekend mid-month at Saltburn Folk Festival, where Colin had several performances. Then it was straight back home to pack and catch the ferry to Ijmuiden for 2½ weeks on the bike, taking a circular route as far as the Czech Republic. Our trip is written up here.
September saw us back at the Theatre Royal for a performance of New Jersey Nights, the tribute to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and, later in the month, Rough Justice, an excellent courtroom drama starring Tom Conti.
Then it was off down to Cambridge to help Rob and Sandi celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary. We’ll be in our 90s before we reach ours!
Some friends of Colin’s were giving a concert in St Nicholas Church, which made for a pleasant evening to round off the month.
We went to see Ribbon Road in N Shields. This is a local trio singing self-penned songs, very much to our taste – songs and trio! If you get the opportunity to see them, do so.
Later in the month we caught the train to Kings Cross and then the Eurostar to Paris for a long-promised four-night stay. The weather was fine and we saw and did everything we’d planned.
Pat cooked her usual Thanksgiving dinner, attended by the Slaters, the Carricks, Kate and Pat’s Mam.
December arrived with an emergency. Pat’s Mam had to go into hospital with a perforated bowel. After a week’s close observation she was discharged home, but Pat spent the next week sleeping on her sofa to look after her. Then it was time for us to go skiing (Val Thorens), care duties being taken over by Pat’s sister Liz. Three days later Liz herself fell ill, and we had to cut our skiing holiday short. Still, we’d had three days of bright sunshine and perfect pistes, so no complaints, and two buses to Geneva and easyJet to Manchester soon saw us home!
Mam ended up in a nursing home for two weeks over Christmas, after which she was able to come home with a care plan in place and she has gone from strength to strength.
In the midst of all this we took delivery of our wonderful new Rangemaster. It has more features than the old one and looked a bit daunting but Pat did manage to turn the correct oven to the right setting most of the time in order to produce Xmas dinner. We had the Slaters to join us on the day and the Carricks to stay on Boxing Day so plenty of children around to help us enjoy the holiday.